“I guarantee he will be there,” he said. “I think so – I really think so.”
“Michael, I’ll see you in Tokyo,” he challenged.
Phelp’s mom Debbie supported the idea of another Olympic run for her son.
“That would be wonderful,” she told Lauer, later in the show. “I already have the race picked out.”
Thursday’s 200-meter individual medley was thought to be the last time the swimmers would face off professionally. Phelps had previously said that the 2012 London Olympics would be his last, but he came out of retirement in 2014 and went on to easily secure a spot on Team USA once again.
From the beginning of the highly-anticipated battle, it appeared Lochte might claim gold. He was in the lead for the first part of the race but fell behind, eventually placing fifth.
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Despite not medaling in his last Rio race, Lochte is still the second most decorated male swimmer of all time.
He’s only bested Phelps once at the Olympics – in the 400-meter individual medley at the 2012 London Games.
The swimmers insist there’s nothing but love and friendly competition between them.
“[He’s] definitely an inspiration,” Lochte told Lauer of Phelps. “Just what he’s accomplished in the sport – he brings the best out of me, and hopefully I can say the same for him. The rivalry that we’ve created and that friendship – I’m definitely going to cherish it for the rest of my life.”